Stylish super-fine gauge 240 stitches with reinforced toe? Over-the-calf 190 denier Australian merino? Pembrey Sea Island cotton? A classic flat-knit Laburnum or Waddington? A turn over at the top monogrammed Tammy? A $50 Tabitha? Invisible houndstooth? Or perhaps a Hemingway Escorial, shimmering Asberley silk longs, pewter grey Knightsbridge, charcoal Pemberys, or even a pair of mid-length Quakers?
Hand-linked toe seams are de rigeur. One must be discerning about one’s hosiery. Luxury socks are the secret to wardrobe perfection. The most luxurious fibers make superior socks. Whoever said if they were super-rich and money was no object, they would have a fresh pair of socks every day of the week was a wise person—socks matter.
The finest socks in the world are to be found behind a blue door in Leicester in the British Midlands. Pantherella has become synonymous with quality sock wear. Their fine gauge dress socks have virtually undetectable fine-linked toe seams, elastic tops to stop pinching, increased knitting tension without elastane, and a greater stitch density than other socks and extended reinforced heel, flat-knit smooth soles. They are made from the best yarns and passed through a flame to eliminate stray fibers.
Pantherella first opened its doors in 1937 as Midlands Hosiery Mills, an established women’s hosiery factory. German Louis Goldschmidt was obsessed with other people’s feet. For him, utopia wasn’t possible without a wide choice of lightweight, seamless socks. Local machine makers P.A. Bentley made him a specialist sock machine. In the 1940s, he was exporting his pioneering hand-finished ribbed socks from his Hallaton Street factory to North America and Australia.
Leicester, a hundred and three miles north of London, has historically has been long associated with the production of textiles, clothing, and shoes. The Zanetic Works building was originally constructed for Pencarbon Co. paperwork, and Pantherella moved from Staffordshire to its current site in 1962. The factory employs eighty workers.
Some of today’s sock makers are fifth-generation, all versed in time-honored sock etiquette and sock care. All of Pantherella’s socks have a care label on their packaging, instructing wearers to follow these instructions very carefully. Socks made from luxury yarns must never be tumble-dried. The use of an appropriate detergent is crucial. Cashmere, wool, and wool blended socks must be washed with a non-biological, wool safe detergent. Cotton socks demand color-safe detergents.
Always wash your socks inside-out (except Cashmere) in as low a temperature as possible. Don’t stint on fabric softener. But don’t use it with cashmere socks. Do not machine wash or dry clean your cashmere socks. Do not soak them for more than five minutes. Do not ever wring them. Never iron or press them. Always dry them flat. Do not ever hang them. Respect a Mongolian goat’s undercoat at all times. And the work of the craftsmen who made your socks, using needles one-fiftieth of an inch thick.
For storage purposes, group your socks by color as placing dark colored socks, and light-colored socks together can lead to a transfer of fibers between one pair and the next, leading to unsightly surface effects and marred craftsmanship. Use cedar balls or lavender bags to protect from clothes moths.
The mantra for customers and staff of Panterella socks is “Try to maintain neat toenails, as the majority of holes found in socks are caused by long toenails – especially the hallux. Or big toe.”
Careful and considered choice of footwear is also vital to a successful sock. Cashmere socks should only be worn with a light moccasin or soft loafer shoe. Lightweight socks will wear excessively if worn with heavy winter boots, and similarly, thick winter socks will experience an excessive level of wear if worn with a dress or “hard” shoes.
Indulge yourself in cozy micro yarns from Gobi desert goats, Tasmanian sheep, Spanish royal flocks, Nile delta cotton spun and dyed in Italy, West Indian cotton, Chinese Swiss ‘Tram’ silk, Eco-Luxe from recycled plastic (PET) bottles, and recycled cotton waste and sparkly Lurex. And don’t forget your sock comb. No one likes to be seen in socks that have pilled. Bobbly socks let the side down.